Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Archived Reviews

Wendy Ip – Fan Favourites So Far - Independent
Originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Wendy Ip’s new CD is a collection of popular songs from recording sessions in New York, L.A. and Vancouver. “Fan Favourites So Far” is filled with catchy pop hooks, Beatles-esque melodies and sharp lyrics. The songs are fun and biting, often with bittersweet tales underpinned by the happy melodies. “Our Little Room” describes life in a cramped apartment, all the while dreaming of better days ahead. “Most Of The Time”, the album closer, is a haunting song about an abusive partner. Wendy’s sweet voice and gift for playing piano is showcased by the deft production skills of Joe Berardi and Joseph Briggs. After a couple of listens, these songs will be imbedded in your head.
Sharyn MacEren – Always Dreamin’ – Planet Hype
Previously known for her Billboard-charting single “Hard To Get” (under the moniker of “the S Factor”), California’s Sharyn MacEren releases her latest full-length album full of uptempo Pop and Dance grooves. Standout tracks include the summery “A Love Divine”, “When the Record Spins” and the trance-inflected “A Little More Time”. With all tracks produced by Glenn Gutierrez, (known for his work with Jocelyn Enriquez and Pinay) much of the music has a very retro Freestyle/Miami Bass style sound, reminiscent of artists like Cover Girls and Lil’ Suzy. However, because all the songs were produced by one person, many sound too similar beat-wise and sonically blend into each other. The bonus track called “Sharyn Uncovered” showcases Sharyn singing acapella versions of her songs. She has a good voice, and can reach even higher heights if she works with a variety of producers who can further develop her talents. Overall though, “Always Dreamin’” is full of cute and catchy Dance-Pop ditties, rivalling Kylie Minogue’s “Fever” album. And, unlike Kylie and many other dance artists who are just chirpy vocalists fronting for producers, Sharyn writes both the lyrics and music for all of her songs. With her skills in singing and songwriting, Sharyn is a rising star that we should be looking out for.
Annie Lin – East Coast Songs – Ariadne Records
Houston, Texas based Annie Lin specializes in playing “acoustic pop folk”. East Coast Songs is her latest CD, backed by the Pollack brothers on Bass and Drums. It features 8 new songs that showcase her melodic storytelling lyrics and nimble guitar playing, honed from playing at cafes and live houses all over the US and festivals like the Asian-American Songwriters Showcase Tour. Annie’s subject matter ranges from the mundane to topical. On “Cut Out The Skyline”, Lin tackles media coverage of the events of 9/11, wondering “What do you do when you've hung your flag and the radio says that's all you can do?” Her style evokes artists like Edie Brickell and Lisa Loeb, with a more aggressive and fun pop edge. The CD is intimate and engaging in nature and makes you feel like you’re sitting at a cafe while Annie and her band plays for a small circle of their closest friends.
Pinay – What Now – Planet Hype
A lot of things have changed for the sexy ladies of Pinay since we saw them last. Singers Loredie Lugos, Irma De Los Santos and Angelica Ablog have changed record labels and regrouped as a trio after seeing founding member Maylene Briones leave to go to medical school. Signing with Union City-based independent Planet Hype after their first album release on Classified/Tommy Boy Records, “What Now” was recorded over a period of six months. Beating the dreaded sophomore jinx, their sound on the new album has become more refined and confident. With a variety of producers and songwriters including JP Nebres and Matt Villacarte, Pinay deliver a sweet mix of uptempo Pop/R&B; and smooth Slow Jams. Their voices sound very comfortable together, blending harmoniously and simultaneously complementing and showcasing each others’ range. Highlights include the bouncy title track and a cover of The Jets’ “You Got It All Over Him”. “Unconditionally”, written by Angelica, is a gospel-tinged ballad that brings forth the vocal power of the trio. What now, indeed for Pinay? It seems to me that greatness looms on the horizon for these talented women.
April 2003

Bob Sinclar - The Beat Goes On - Vendetta 12" This rare Italian 12" collects the best remixes of Bob's smash dancefloor hit into one nice package. The Defected UK release had the remixes spread over 3 separate 12" singles, while this one only has the best mixes. There's the electro disco of Bob's Original Mix; Junior Jack drops another trippy remix similar to his rework of "Shake It Baby" by DJD, and Roger Sanchez turns the track into a funky chunky tribal affair. Look out for mixes of the new single "Kiss My Eyes" soon to be in stores.

Craig David - Rise and Fall - Wildstar 12" The original mix of this track featured Sting, who is nowhere to be heard on this remix package. On the A side, Kings of Soul turn out a mix quite appropriate for their name. It's sweet soulful House, though to me it's not that interesting. The B-Side features MJ Cole's mix, which is a wicked 4x4 Bumpy UK Garage style. Cut up vocals, guitar stabs and an MC help make this a perfect mix, which is my choice for the dancefloor.

Planet Funk - Who Said (Stuck In The UK) - Bustin' Loose 12" Who Said is the latest single from this Anglo/Italo band, and it's a mashup between Rock and House. Both versions are wicked, with the irresistably catchy Album Version plus a re-rub from Moguai on the flip. Interesting enough, instead of a driving Trancer, Moguai decided to keep the original vibe and just pump up the groove while playing around with the vocals. I like this one a lot...Hopefully we'll see the Full-Length album from Planet Funk surface on our shores.>

Frances Nero vs. K-Klass - Footsteps - SuSu 12" Test Pressing Oh, how I live for songs like this! K-Klass turn this Frances Nero soul jam into a full-fledged disco track! Luscious strings, guitars and drums combine with her vocals to make a true Nu-Disco gem. I've been trying to find a copy of this with the full vocals ever since SuSu put out their sampler 2 x 12", and I'm grateful to have finally found it! Although this might not be for everyone, it's a Sanfrandisco classic!
March 24, 2003

Bini & Martini feat. Su'Su Bobien - Say Yes - Azuli My favourite Italian remix duo return on the scene with this twisted disco monster! After a bunch of Prog-styled remixes which weren't too much to my liking, "Say Yes" is a return to their more dancefloor-friendly style but with a tweaked-out twist. Su Su Bobien (from "You Don't Know" fame) provides the uplifting vocals while the music gets funky and squelchy at the same time...word has it this will be a WMC smash, but it's already a classic in my books. Say Yes to Bini & Martini, and pick this 12" asap!! As an aside, is it just me, or is Azuli getting cheap with their packaging?! This release was just a sticker stuck on top of an inner sleeve!! What happened to record jackets?? And why is the Goodfellas "All Night" release missing from the Azuli catalogue??

MJ Cole - Wondering Why - Talkin' Loud 12" OH OH OH! It's the new single from Mr. MJ Cole!!! Do I really have to say any more? Well, okay I'll say a few words about it. The 1st 12" single has the album mix with Vula, funky 4x4 Garage-House; a downtempo remix that was a bit on the dull side and a smashing Intalex remix on the D'n'B tip. However, I decided to skip this record and picked up 12" number 2, which has the deadly Zero Three Dub from MJ and a delicious House remix from Grant Nelson. This is another essential crate selection for all the garage/house heads out there.

Lady Alma - Lift Your Voices - 83 West 12" This soulful track is produced by Toronto's Peter & Tyrone. It's a sweet number with a very soulful vocal from Philly's Lady Alma Horton. Besides the full vocal on the A-side, there is also a Dub and Padapella for the more creative DJ's.

Ann Nesby - Let Your Will Be Done - Silk Entertainment 2 x 12" Originally released last year with more Dance-oriented remixes, "Let Your Will Be Done" is now issued on Steve Silk Hurley's label, as part of the Voices of Life album. This double pack features two Soulful remixes from Steve Silk Hurley and a remix from Louis Benedetti of SoulShine Records. All the mixes are quite nice, though I prefer Louis' mix the most.

Royksopp - Eple - Wall of Sound 12" You should all know this song by now...along with the fabulous album version, you get a tripped-out electronic rework from Black Strobe and a nicely funked up affair from Boris Dlugosch and Michi Lange. A second 12" is also available with Fatboy Slim and Shakedown remixes.

Everything But The Girl - Corcovado - Virgin 12" Promo EBTG give us their take on the classic Bossa Nova track. Knee Deep step in on remix duties with another one of their stomping grooves, a la "Pasilda". Ben Watt re-edits the Knee Deep remix and has Tracey re-sing the vocals on his take of the song. Another surefire hit!

Next Evidence feat. N'Dea Davenport - Morning Breeze - Capitol France 12" One of my favourite vocalists, N'Dea (from the Brand New Heavies) appears on this latest release from French Hipsters Next Evidence. Morning Breeze is a cool soul jam in its original form, reminding me of the Acid Jazz sound of the early 90's. NE themselves provide a disco dub mix, but it's Dimitri From Paris who delivers the goods. He discofies the track in his new "Disco Blend", taking you to the dancefloor and never letting up for air. Essential.

Masters At Work present A Tribute To Fela - MAW Expensive (Dimitri from Paris Re-Edit) - MAW Records 12" The title above says it all, with Dimi providing a more four on the floor version of this Dancefloor staple. A deeper-styled mix is on the B-side.
September 4, 2002

In Es Project - "I'm Feeling Good" - Inhouse 12" Promo Billed as "A Todd Terry Remix", this is the Nina Simone remix you've been waiting for. Based around "Feeling Good", this track starts off with NuYorican style beats under Nina's unmistakable vocal, then turns into a deep house workout with proggy elements. Best heard on a loud soundsystem, like when Jazzy Jeff played it to a packed audience at the Palais Royale. This is a must have record!

Donell Jones - "Put Me Down" - Arista 12" Promo Smooth R&B; from Mr. Jones, produced again by Untouchable Eddie F. Sounds reminiscent of "You Know What's Up" but is still a sweet little jam for the summertime. You can play this one with the top down driving down the coastal highway...

Whitney Houston - "Whatchulookinat" - Arista 12" Whitney's new track was unexpectedly leaked early to radio to gage their reception to the release of this song as a single. They didn't bite, and now rumours are swirling that her first official "comeback" single will instead be a cover of Debbie Boone's "You Light Up My Life". It doesn't help matters that the video for this song has been scrapped. "Whatchulookinat" is a fairly catchy tune once you get around to listening to it. A semi-attack lyrically on all the gossip mongers who are hating on Ms. Houston, the track is co-produced by Bobby Brown and Muhammad 2G, a new producer "discovered" by Bobby. It's passable in its' original form, but nothing too spectacular. The pipes are there, but the people are waiting for something for spectacular. Remixes (on a separate 2 x 12" package) from Thunderpuss and Full Intention make for more entertaining listening.

Clipse - "Grindin'" - Arista/Star Trak 12" Promo Another production from the red hot Neptunes, "Grindin" comes in two flavours: the original featuring NORE, Baby & Lil' Wayne plus the "Selector Remix" which features Toronto's own Kardinal Offishall and Sean Paul. The stark, simple stomping groove will make you move your backside in no time at all! This one's for the clubs...

Jamiroquai - Love Foolosophy - Sony Canada 12" Promo This rare Canada only promo 12" features the best mixes of "Love Foolosophy" from Bini & Martini, Knee Deep, Mondo Grosso and Lottie. My fave is the Knee Deep Re-Edit, while the previously Japan CD only Mondo Grosso mix (produced by Shinichi Osawa) is great for the late night chill out crowd. The Bini & Martini mix is on their recent Progressive styled groove and Lottie's mix (only available on rare UK 12" Promo otherwise) is probably best left on that rare UK 12" Promo. An extra special bonus included is the delightful Blaze remix of "Little L".
August 29, 2002

Brandy Full Moon - Full Intention/Ernie Lake Remixes - 2x12"
Full Moon - Mike Rizzo/Filur vs C&J;/Robbie Rivera Remixes - 2x 12"
Full Moon - Precision/Soulchild/C&J; Remixes - 2 x 12"
Full Moon - Damien Mendis/Rascal Remixes - 12"
All released on Atlantic Records

Brandy's latest single is the title track off her new album, and it's been given the royal treatment. Originally produced by Mike City, "Full Moon" has now been worked over by a plethora of remixers for every audience: Full Intention & Filur for the Soulful/Vocal House crowd, Robbie Rivera, Mike Rizzo & Ernie Lake for the Dance/Circuit fans; Precision, Soulchild and Cutfather & Joe for the R&B;/Hip Hop heads, and finally Damien Mendis & Albert "One Rascal" Cabrera for the Old School/Disco freaks.

Spread out over 3 separate Double Packs and a newly released single 12", all remixes work very well with the song and cater to many different markets. I personally prefer the Full Intention, C&J; and Rascal remixes the best. Full Intention do a classic soulful House re-touch that uses a lot of the original production keys. C&J; lay the vocals on top of "I.O.U." by Freeeze, and the Rascal remix drops Brandy's sultry vocals on top of Chic's "I Want Your Love" to massive effect. I felt like rollerskating around town after listening to that 12". 7 records worth of material is quite overwhelming, and it's great to see that Atlantic Records is still maintaining priority status on 12" singles for the market. "Full Moon" is one of my favourite songs of the year, and I gladly recommend picking a copy of the album and remixes asap. For those who don't have a turntable, never fear: Atlantic has released a CD Maxi-Single in the US filled with 12 different remixes of the song.
June 15, 2002

Kylie Minogue
Love at First Sight - Capitol 2 x 12"
This is Kylie's latest single stateside, as well as in the UK. "Love at First Sight" is a good follow-up to "Can't Get You Out of My Head", emphasising a very catchy chorus backed with a cute filtered disco guitar loop. A bit reminiscent of Stardust's "Music Sounds Better With You". Remixes are from The Scumfrog, who delivers a 80's flavoured Progressive House version that comes in vocal and dub; Ruff & Jam who turn out two different mixes: a jazzy/breaky/loungey club mix and a poptastic 7" edit. Finally there is the Twin Master Plan mix, which is like a pumped up album version.

G-Club presents Bando Sonora
Guitarra G - Defected 12"
This has been out for a while, but I finally picked up a copy. Perfect for the summertime, "Guitarra G" is a latin guitar led disco houser. The stunningly perfect G-Club Original Mix features a sample from Ashford & Simpson's "Bourgie Bourgie" that works the track very effectively. Other mixes include G-Club's Chilled mix, a tech-house version from Terry Lee Brown Jr. and a more pumped up mix from Warren Clarke. Essential for the Original Mix.

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